Despite being up against it from day one, Alloa had a fantastic 2018/19 campaign and finished in 8th place after a dramatic final day. Whilst most teams would be disappointed with a standing only a point away from automatic relegation, the season was still a very, very positive one for Jim Goodwin and his men. I liked watching Alloa last year and I thought that they played good football. They had some exciting players in their ranks (plus for my money the best goalkeeper in the division). Everyone tipped Alloa for relegation, myself included, so to beat the drop (and be the only part-time team in the division) the club achieved exactly what it set out to, taking some big scalps and upsetting the odds in the process.
The next step in Alloa’s journey hinges on the new manager and the approach he takes this season…
Transfers In – Liam Buchanan (Raith Rovers), Andy Stirling (Queen of the South), Robert Thomson (Greenock Morton), Kevin O’Hara (Falkirk),
Transfers Out – Sam Roscoe (Aberdeen, end of loan), Connor Shields (Sunderland, end of loan), Dario Zanatta (Hearts, end of loan), Zdravko Karadachki, Declan McDonald, Jordan Kirkpatrick (Forfar), Reis Peggie (East Stirlingshire), Jack Aitchison (Celtic, end of loan), Jack Hamilton (Livingston, end of loan),
Transfer Window Success? – With the new manager coming in Peter Grant will need to assess the squad but the real need for Alloa right now is some depth at the back and possibly an attacking threat going forward (but not necessarily a striker). Central defenders are a must and another dip into the loan market is inevitable. If Robert Thomson manages to find some form (similar to a couple of years ago at Dumbarton) he could be an important player for Alloa. The fact that they have widened their pitch, much to the delight of everyone else in the league, might mean a ‘longer’ brand of football. Someone like Thomson could be important.
The Manager – Replacing Jim Goodwin was always going to be a huge task and the man that Mike Mulraney has chosen is former Celtic player and Scotland coach, Peter Grant. The appointment is a bit of a random one and is a big gamble (but so is any appointment). Grant has had a varied coaching career and brings good experience but remains very unproven as a manager. Fans might be worried that he brings a style of play to the team that is removed from the one enjoyed under Goodwin but he will be given time to show his worth. It is a case of wait and see with this but my gut instinct is that it will not be a particularly successful appointment and he may not last.
The Hope – Survival, and to continue to be the best part-time team in Scotland. The only objective Alloa have is to remain in the division and enjoy the spoils that come with that. Financially this has been a good time for Alloa given the additional revenue and those in charge will be keen for that to continue.
As an outsider in feels like with Goodwin leaving the heart has been ripped from the Alloa side. Not that the club were in any way angry at Goodwin leaving, and in fact they were very complimentary of their former manager, wishing him all the best in the future. You do feel though that his departure will hit Alloa hard and it could mean that it will be a straight battle at the bottom between the two part-timers in the division.
The appointment of Grant is a step into the unknown but Alloa do have a good track record of managers in recent times and they have a strong chairman in Mulraney. It will be important that Peter Grant does not try to change what is a very stable and successful formula.
Look Out For – I mentioned earlier on that Alloa possibly had the best goalkeeper in the division and for me Neil Parry has a massive season ahead of him. With Alloa likely to be under pressure every week he will need to continue to impress in the same way he has throughout his career. This year hasn’t started well for Parry, after suffering a horrible injury against Hibs in the Betfred, but once back fit he will be a key figure.